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U.S.-Backed Syrian Forces Launch 'Final' Assault In Raqqa

A girl cries next to other civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants at a mosque in Raqqa on October 12.

U.S.-backed forces say they have launched their "final" assault to uproot Islamic State (IS) militants from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on October 15 that it began the offensive after a deal to "evacuate remaining civilians in the city and ensure the surrender of 275 local mercenaries and their families."

It was unclear how many militants remained in the city, which the Kurdish-led SDF coalition has been besieging for nearly four months.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo said that around 90 percent of Raqqa has been liberated. He also said that IS fighters were putting up a desperate resistance in a number of neighborhoods in the city.

"We still expect there to be difficult fighting," said Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led international coalition against the IS group.

The loss of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, would deal a huge blow to the IS group, which has been steadily losing ground in both Syria and Iraq over the last two years.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa